Children don’t judge Santa by his color; adults should do the same
COMMENTARY shouldn’t matter what color Santa is,” LaTanya Newell told WESH. Newell is the event manager for the city’s Chamber of Commerce and the person who played the role of Mrs. Claus.
“Santa represents joy,” she said. Before we proceed, let’s pause for the cause and recognize Newell said Santa’s color matter, not that he is
The fact remains Newell and her boyfriend, who played Santa, were the first black couple presented as Santa and Mrs. Claus in the 40-year history of the event. To put that in perspective, the city of St. Cloud saw a black president voted in to run the country before the city introduced a black Santa Claus.
I’m not trying to beat up St. Cloud here. Good for them for having a black woman in a leadership role to open the door.
But I’m betting a lot of other cities in America consistently neglect the chance to broaden Santa’s brand to a diverse audience.
Mall of America in Minnesota, the largest mall in the country, made national headlines after hiring its first black Santa in 2016. Some of the feedback was so vile and racist that the Minneapolis Star Tribune disabled comment on its news story because Christmas “traditionalists” couldn’t embrace an expanded representation of Santa.
And does anyone remember the incredulous fit former Fox News host Megyn Kelly threw when journalist Aisha Harris suggested we rebrand Santa as a penguin, like the Easter bunny concept? Kelly and a panel of “experts” insisted Santa “is just white” as if any of this is a verifiable fact. This ridiculous thought was repeated by Ann Coulter, who laughed at the notion that Santa could be anything other than white in an 2013 interview with Piers Morgan.
I remember watching this national dialogue unfold as I prepared to celebrate my first Christmas as a new mom. That was when it dawned on me that I couldn’t recall a single memory growing up with a Santa that had skin like mine.
So I made it a point to seek out a black Santa that year for my daughter because why shouldn’t she see a Santa that is brown or peach or an array of colors? For goodness sake, the man has a flying reindeer with a nose that glows in the dark. Anything is possible.
Representation matters. Even when we’re talking about something as seemingly trivial as Santa.
Kids who grow up only seeing and believing in white Santa Clauses can turn into adults who only validate white Santa Clauses. This, in turn, creates tragic adults who lack the ability to imagine a world beyond what they see.
Newell is absolutely right in reminding us all that Santa is a vessel used to inspire joy and belief in good things.
In an increasingly cynical world, isn’t that the message we want our children to embrace? Of course, this message can come from a white Santa too. But let’s be mindful that children of color should be able to normalize the experience of seeing a black or Latino or Asian Santa in a parade or in a mall, too.
We are just as magical. Embracing — not dismissing, demeaning or ignoring our differences — celebrates the idea that we all belong.
This whole St. Cloud situation — for which community members triumphantly drowned out the ignorant voices — made me wonder how my 6-year-old child perceives Santa.
So I asked her, what does Santa look like?
Her response; Santa has a white beard, he has a red suit, he wears a black belt, he has black shoes and he has a red hat with a white fuzzy ball on the end. Anything else, I asked?
And that’s where we left the conversation.
Santa is black, he’s white and, of course, red all over.
A young boy poses with Langston Patterson, dressed as Santa, at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles this month.